AFTER an inconsistent showing in Game One, San Miguel import Charles Rhodes vowed that he wasn't going to allow TNT to take a two-game lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals.
He lived up to his promise, just not in the way he expected.
Coming off a 31 -point performance in the Game One loss, Rhodes wound up with just seven points in the Beermen’s 102-88 victory over the KaTropa but made sure to make his presence felt in other areas.
After not guarding TNT’s Joshua Smith at all in the opener, Rhodes took the challenge of being the primary defender of the 6-10, 330-pound mammoth.
Smith finished with just 11 points and never really got the chance to sway the result of the game with his size as San Miguel turned a 17-0 deficit into an impressive breakaway victory.
“That was the game plan, for me to just try and make him do things he was uncomfortable with. We succeeded with that,” said Rhodes, who added 11 rebounds and four blocked shots in just 18 minutes of action.
“It's fun actually because you know, it's a challenge. Because he was so big and strong, it was actually fun for me,” he added.
With Rhodes taking a step back offensively, it was guys like June Mar Fajardo, Chris Ross and Arwind Santos who took over the offensive load in Game 2.
Fajardo finished with 22 points and 11 boards, Ross added 20 points and nine assists while Santos added 16 points off the bench.
Rhodes was just happy, and relieved, to have teammates who can take over.
“I let my locals do that [scoring]. I think my game plan was more of let my locals score and get them involved instead of me. I need to get involved on defense. It feels great to come here and play SMB basketball,” Rhodes said.
“Last game, we didn't do that and we let them take us out of rhythm and our style of play. We just gotta continue this every game. We just try to get their weaknesses and we try to exploit them,” he added.
Rhodes personally credited his bench for the comeback, led by Santos’ 11 first-quarter points, as they stormed back from that early hole and into a comfortable victory.,
“Without our bench, we wouldn't be in that situation. Hell, we went down 17-0, man. I was even getting nervous. Our bench took care of that.”